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The Skinny On Dieting Disasters

Fads & Misinformation Eat Into Results

By John Salak –

There is nothing like the start of a new year and/or coming to grips with the fact you chubbed out at the holidays to rev people up about a new diet. In fact, Statista 2020 reports losing weight is the second most popular New Year’s Resolution, coming in behind saving more money and right above having more sex.

None of this should be surprising. Weight loss is tied to self-esteem, physical fitness and overall health. It’s little wonder then that more than 40 percent of adults have tried to diet at least once. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them have failed. In fact, it is estimated that 95-97 percent of people who diet regain the weight they lost in 3 to 5 years.

An issue is the diets themselves, according to a range of nutritionists and fitness authorities. Many, if not most, are too restrictive, not customizable, developed to support the sales of particular brand products, have limited or no scientific backing, and make claims for quick fixes that are extremely hard to achieve let alone sustain, according to reports in Self, Prevention, Time and other publications.

What makes matters worse is that dieters are consistently overwhelmed with conflicting weight-loss information and promotions of fad and celebrity diets from a burgeoning dieting industry that’s approaching $500 billion in annual sales. Prevention Magazine underscored the point recently by warning dieters of 25 of the worst but most hyped dieting disasters on the market. The reasons varied from the diets being unsustainable to impractical, lacking in scientific research and simply nutritionally dangerous. Among the losers, Prevention cited the HCG Diet, the Werewolf Diet, the Five-Bite Diet, the Zero-sugar Diet and the ever-popular Keto Diet, among others.

The problem goes beyond the promotion of fad or celebrity diets that do little if any short- or long-term good. Dieting simply doesn’t get the deep-seated research support needed to help define fundamentally sound procedures. JAMA Network Open released a startling report in late 2019 that claimed 86 percent of diet trials amended their desired outcomes as their work progressed. These ongoing adjustments raised the uncomfortable possibility of direct or unintentional bias in virtually all diet trial findings, according to researchers Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital and Dr. Steven Heymsfield of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rogue.

“High-quality trials are hard to do because diets, and the behavior of humans who consume them, are so complicated,” the doctors wrote of their research into more than 340 diet trials. The problem is acerbated by underfunded research spurred on by the relatedly few big companies that stand to profit from the outcome of the trials. “Typical diet trials must get by on shoestring budgets, rarely exceeding a few hundred thousand dollars, compared with drug trials that may cost several hundred million dollars,” Ludwig and Heymsfield explained.

In a subsequent editorial in The New York Times, the researchers called for a substantial industrywide investment in “a sort of Manhattan Project” that would support deep-seated dieting research to identify critical issues and sound approaches. While the investment would be significant, they argued the amount would represent only a fraction of the cost now spent on treating obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Ludwig and Heymsfield’s research is undoubtedly startling and their “Manhattan Project” approach to it is intriguing. Unfortunately, fad diets, misinformation and over information aren’t going away anytime soon. Neither is our collective desire to shed pounds.

Is a sensible solution at hand? Yes. In fact, it’s always been there. WebMD lays out a commonsense approach to weight loss that is manageable and sensible. It includes trimming just 500 calories a day and doing moderate exercise to lose a pound each week. Other simple adjustments include eating breakfast daily, avoiding late-night kitchen visits, and increasing consumption of produce and grains while avoiding sugary drinks, among other techniques.

Get a handle on this approach and you can stop worrying about losing weight and concentrate on saving money and having more sex.





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